"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
I reckon that some of the friends from my past are a little…different. Well, two friends I’m talking about this time were maybe a little more then a little different. And my boy Mark was just about to meet them!
Mark was at the ranch doing his chores while I was in town. At the moment, Mark was busy chasing a pig that had escaped from it’s pen. He found him – stuck in a loose board on the shed. Mark scolded the pig. As he picked it up, the pig naturally went a squealing. Mark warned the pig to be quiet before his ma came crashing through the fence. Then I’d pin his hide to the wall – and Mark’s too!
"Hello Varmint," Mark suddenly heard a man say. Mark looked up to see a man strangely dressed sitting on a horse. He looked like he just stepped out of one of Marks school books. The man had on one of those fluffy white shirts, wore a cape, a feather in his hat, and a sword in place of a six-gun.
Naturally, Mark was a bit startled by what he saw. "Who...who are you? Where...where are you from?" Mark stuttered He didn't know what to think of this man.
"Out of the sunrise, from the shire 'o the rainbow, the county of the Dragon, from castle Vermillion, I sir am Don Chimera Del Laredo and your obedient servant." As he spoke, he climbed off his horse and bowed to Mark as if he were a knight.
As if just realizing he still had the pig, he quickly sat him down as he continued staring at the strange man in front of him. "You lost?" He asked then.
"Nay stripling, now how could we be lost since we are here?"
Mark was a little confused. "Uh...uh...the...The main trails a half a mile over. You shouldn't have any trouble finding it," said Mark. He had no idea who these men were, but he knew I didn’t approved of his talking to strangers. And in Mark’s eyes, this man was a stranger for sure!
Don Chimera Del Laredo laughed at Mark’s surprise. "By my road gauge there's a young cock that come through with great personal parallel. Rescue’s a damsel in distress from durance farm, and allows it to flee to the arms of the waiting prince." Mark looking confused looks around and wonders if he is really talking about the pig? It was really hard for him to determine what he was talking about! "Superb stripling!" Laredo clapped his hands. "Superb!"
"All it was, was a pig stuck in a crack in the shed! Wasn't even a girl pig at that?" Said Mark. Don Chimera Del Laredo was not interested in details.
Mark wasn’t quite sure what was going on here, but he did know that he wanted to discourage these strange men from staying any longer. Casually, he said, “Excuse me, I’ve got some wood to cut.”
Now, if he thought he was going to get off that easily, he was badly mistaken! Because just then, Don Chimera Del Laredo drew his sword, "Hold!" When Mark turned around he was starring at a sword. Mark’s eyes grew fearful. "Kneel!” Mark stared at the sword pointing right at him. “Kneel I say! Kneel."
Mark was scared. As he was slowly kneeling Don Chimera Del Laredo turned to his Esquire Gates and winked. "Y-y-your not gonna cut off my head?" Mark asked a bit nervously. "Pa wouldn't like that!"
"Silence!" Del Laredo ordered. "I dub thee Sir Mark McCain." He tapped Mark's right shoulder with the sword. "Knight of the realm.” Then he tapped Mark’s left shoulder. “Here of the manor. Rise Sir Mark."
Again, Mark was confused. He felt like he was in the middle of a dream. "How did you know my name? Who…who did you say you were?" Del Laredo repeated his full name. “It’s nice to meet you. Now…I better get back to my work!” Mark was still confused and didn’t like being here alone with these strange men.
“Hold, Sir Mark! Would you refuse hospitality to a Knight Errant in a far land?” Del Laredo asked. Mark was confused. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t help remembering my words about talking to strangers, yet the men seemed nice and harmless enough – though Mark did believe them to be a bit loco. "I tell you, Sir Knight, when the Lord Lucas McCain shall hear of this!"
At the mention of my name, he turned to him excitedly. “You know my Pa?”
“Do I know your Pa?” Del Laredo repeated. “My boy, after all the crusades I’ve shared with your Pa, I know him like a brother!” That, of course, excited Mark. “Of course, he probably knows me best by my lay name, Don la Gar.”
“Gosh, Mr. La Gar…” Mark started, but he stopped Mark from going on. He wanted to be known in his “proper form.” Mark smiled. “I heard him talk about you quite a bit. Of course, it was a long time ago.”
“Life…is a long time ago,” he stated.
Mark wondered what brought him here – he put his arm around Mark’s shoulders as they started inside. He reported calmly that he was here to kill a man. Mark suddenly stopped and asked who. He didn’t even want to name the man, but Mark insisted. “His name, sir, is Colonel Black!”
Mark thought on that name then remembered – he was the other man we used to ride with. “Is he here?” la Gar wondered.
“No he isn’t. I’ve never even seen him!” Mark assured him.
La Gar assured Mark he’d be there. “And when he comes, feast your eyes on a blaggard! Because he won’t last long!” la Gar assured him. Then la Gar started hoping we had food – pies and pastries…suckling pig or two…
Mark folded his arms. “We maybe have some stew!”
La Gar laughed, not knowing what could be better then stew. They hurried toward the house.
I came back sometime later. You can imagine my surprise when I walked into my house to find Mark standing at the table with a complete stranger. He knew better. "What have I told you about letting strangers in here?" I asked as I slammed the door closed.
"Oh these aren't strangers Pa," Mark was quick to assure me I waited for him to continue explaining exactly who this man was. Mark introduced me to Mr. Gates. I didn’t know the name – but then he told me he was Don la Gar’s foreman.
You can only imagine my surprise to hear that. Now there was a name from my past I hadn’t heard in a long time! “Don la Gar?” I asked excitedly. Gates motioned to my chair where Don was sleeping. “Well I haven’t seen that-“ I stopped. “Watch this.” Then I tipped my hat back on my head and walked over to my sleeping friend. I quietly started speaking Spanish to him. My tricked worked. He almost thought the Mexican Police had us. He jumped up and ran for the door.
But then he remembered where he was. We both laughed. “Had us innocent as babes. For say uh…what was it…500 head or so of Mexican Mavericks?”
“Uh huh,” I stated as I remembered. “Those Mavericks were branded, Don.”
We talked about it as my son listened. “Sounds like rustling to me,” Mark suddenly stated.
I ordered Don to clear up my good name right now. He did as instructed. “Sir Mark, I would have thee know that thy Pa rode with us under the impression that we bought those cattle. But uh…through an oversight…through a mishap, really…we hadn’t. And when we couldn’t show him a bill of sell, he rode right off and left us.”
Mark smiled in relief, proud of me for doing the right thing. “Rode right out and left them, son.” I smiled.
Don wished I had stayed – if I had, I’d be a rich man today. “I’m satisfied,” I assured him. He knew I was rich with my boy being here.
Then I asked about Colonel Black. That was a sore subject with him! He said he’d be here soon. “Colonel Black’s coming here?” I asked. “Now look, I haven’t seen either of you fellows in all this time and now you show up together. How come?”
“There’s something between us, Lucas,” la Gar stated as he slit an apple in two with his sword. “Something that’ll only be solved in a field of honor. And since you are the only one we can trust, we’ve chosen your place to do mortal combat.”
I thought they were friends. He said they were friends, but he wouldn’t be duked and lied to and challenged – even by a friend. Apparently Black had done something really mean to him. “The man must die!” Then he left to get ready to fight Colonel Black.
After he and Gates went out to the barn, I suggested that Mark and I get the dishes cleaned up. As we worked together, Mark asked me a question. "Pa...is Mr. Del Laredo for real?"
I smiled as I scraped off the plate. "Does he look real to you?"
"Yeah, but I don't think things look real to him," said Mark.
"Mark everything depends on the way we see it. Most of us have to live in the time we where born to, whether they like it or not. But some folks are rich enough in money and imagination to live in anytime they to. Don just happens to like the 13th Century."
"Don't folks think he's kinda funny?"
"Now don't be fooled Son, he knows exactly what he's doing and he has a real time doing it." Mark wondered if he was going to really fight Black. “Well, not if I can talk him out of it,” I stated.
Just then we heard a horse approaching. Mark and I hurried to look out the window. Colonel Black and his aide were riding up. “That’s Colonel Black?” Mark asked.
I warned Mark about his charging. We got behind the door and watched him charge right inside our house. He turned and saw us. Then we laughed together. We shook hands and I introduced Mark to him. I called him a renegade, but he assured me he was a respectful business man now. “Ohhh,” I stated. “Well, how long with that last if you and Don have it out?”
“Oh he’s here?” Black asked.
“He’s here,” I nodded.
“I supposed I’m the sneakiest no good that ever strapped flesh to leather,” he commented.
They were both arguing over something, but I had no idea what that something was. I could tell they hadn’t changed a bit! Suddenly, Don walked in. “At your pleasure, sir,” Black stated.
“In twenty minutes,” Don stated. Then he and Gates walked outside.
Black sat down at my table. I wanted him to tell me something. “What is it between you two?”
He didn’t answer. “Lucas, my boy, I think I could use a drink,” he declared.
Meanwhile, Gates and Scoobo were talking outside. Scoobo wanted to make a bet on the dual. Apparently they did this betting thing often because Scoobo suggested they kick it up a bit. They bet $57 since that’s all the money Gates had.
I wanted to get to the truth. So I took talking to Black while Mark took Don. We had to get to the bottom of this! Here’s what we were able to get:
Black: Since the last time I saw them, a battle had started among them. It was an unrelenting campaign. He’d seen him men fall one-by-one.
Don: His men were wiped out week after week. His knights were destroyed. Through treachery, his castle was at stake.
“Sounds like a range war,” Mark stated.
“Oh no, my boy. It was much more serious then that!” Don stated as he practiced fencing with his sword. It was a chess game!
Black was telling me the same thing "A CHESS GAME!" I couldn’t believe this!
Black explained that they have played 1606 games of chess. Black is leading 817 to Don 789 games. Black is leading by 28 games. “Now look, Colonel, I don’t know anything about the game; but I’d wager you are two of the worst players in the world!”
Black also said about a year ago Don Chimera had taken to cheating. He accused him of cheating by playing with his elbows too low on the table.
I suggested they play a supervised game.
Of course Don was telling Mark a different version of the story. He said that Black had taken to cheating. He said when he confronted Black; he had struck him and threw down the gauntlet. “Now Colonel Black must die!” Don stated as he picked up his sword.
Mark had the same idea I had. “Well, couldn’t you do a lot better over a chess board?”
“It’s hard to win against cheating, young man,” Don stated. Mark said it would be hard to cheat against watching.
Black assured me he could defeat any man – Don knows nothing about chest. “Then why aren’t you more games ahead of him?” I asked. He said I’d have to understand the game to understand. I begged to differ. “You aren’t interested in the game! Your just interested in winning.”
“I’m interested in killing Don!” Black insisted.
“So your gonna prove you’re a better chest player because your faster on the draw?” I asked. “That you’re a better businessman because your competition is dead? You prove nothing because you’ve been afraid.”
That made Black made. “Listen here, Lucas! I’m afraid of nothing!”
“Your afraid of not winning!” I insisted. “Failure can be one of the most frightening things in the world. A lot of men would rather die then accept it.”
“I fail at nothing!”
I stepped toward him as I spoke. “You fail to convince yourself that you’re the better chest player! Anytime a man pulls a trigger on a gun he’s failed. I know.”
My speech finally worked. He finally agreed to a supervised chess game if I could convince Don. I went to talk to Don and he agreed.
The Colonel and Don got the chess board out and started a game. Scoobo, Gates, Mark and I stood by and watched them. Mark and I made sure to watch both players for cheating.
It wasn’t long when I noticed Gates and Scoobo off to one side discussing the moves that should be made by the players. They seemed to be a little more interested in the game then was necessary. I began to ponder on this. Then they saw me watching them so they broke it up and Scoobo went to serve drinks.
Before he served, Gates pulled Scoobo over by the door to talk to him. “When you bring those drinks out there, you watch yourself,” he warned. “A dollar a game is one thing, but this one’s for $57, so don’t get fancy!” Scoobo acted innocent, telling Gates he wouldn’t think of such a thing.
Mark and I watched as Scoobo served the drinks. So did Gates. But since his back was toward us and he blocked the chess board, we failed to see Scoobo move one of the Colonel’s pieces. Gates did see it, though, and quickly left the room.
Just as the chess game was starting back up, a gunshot was heard from just outside. Everyone hurried out the door to see what was going on. Gates declared that there was a rattlesnake in the woodpile. He ran inside to get the broom. While inside, he grabbed the broom, but made his way over to the chess board and moved the piece back that Scoobo had moved. Then he hurried outside.
He made his way back outside and started poking the broom around the wood pile. He said he was told that straw makes a rattlesnake curl up and die.
I couldn’t believe what was going on. We all went back to the chess game. But the minute they sat down, Black stopped the game again. He declared that his castle had been tampered with. Don stated it was still in starting position. Black declared that when the shooting started, his castle was one square out. They began fighting over rather it was moved or not. They asked me.
I held up my hands. “To tell you the truth, I don’t remember!” I answered.
But then Mark stepped up and stated, “It was there once. I saw it.”
Then Colonel Black called Don a cheat. Don got mad at that and started accusing Black of moving some of his pieces. I thought this whole thing was crazy! I couldn’t really believe they were really fighting over something so stupid!
“I’m a gentleman,” Black declared. “I’m an officer and a man of honor!” Then Colonel Black slapped Don.
That was it! “And I am a knight and a Lord of the realm!” Then he challenged Black to a duel, and declared he chose the weapons. Then he picked up his sword and stormed out the door. Black followed him outside.
I stood there staring at the door. Mark turned to me. “Pa, aren’t you gonna stop them?” I sighed, picked up the chess piece that had started all this, and turned around to see Gates and Scoobo walk out the back door. Then I hurried outside to stop this crazy duel.
They were still arguing! Gates was accusing Black of being afraid to face him with an ancient weapon. Don picked up the ax and declared it was an ancient weapon too. “You steadfastly refuse to do battle in a civilized way! Very well sir, I tell you that I shall meet you with cold steel and no other way!” He drew his sword. Then he handed Don his sword.
Don Chimera wanted an apology. Black refused. They both drew their swords and started to engage in combat. But suddenly, I fired a shot into the air. They froze and turned to look at me. “Just hold it! Wait a minute!” I ordered as I stepped off the porch and walked over to them. “Calm down. You know, I’ve been thinking, I don’t know too much about chess so I didn’t watch the chessmen. I just watched your hands and they were all four visible at all times. Even when you were served your drinks, all so all four hands through the whole thing.” Then I turned toward Gates and Scoobo.
"The fact is, I was watching your hands so closely that there was another hand I didn't watch.” I walked up behind Scoobo and looked at him. “Wasn't that right Scoobo?" He said he didn't know what I was talkin' about. He said he had no reason to move any of the pieces. “Well, I don’t know unless you had uh…something to gain.” I suddenly slapped my rifle across his chest. “Did you, Scoobo?”
Scoobo had no choice but to answer me honestly. “Well I might have accidently.”
I looked at Gates. "Then after the rattlesnake story you moved it back, accidentally."
“No, I knew he moved it. I just wanted to…avoid trouble,” Gates admitted.
Don walked up to the two men. It was becoming clear to them. He reminded Black of all the times they had been there – serving coffee and drinks. “How long have you been interfering with our games?” Black demanded to know. Gates said a year and Scoobo said six months.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well we…both happen to like chess,” Scoobo admitted. “We had a couple of side-bets going.”
“Well,” I said. “Did it ever occur to you to start your own game?” Scoobo stated there wouldn’t be any real challenge in that.
“The interesting part was in figuring out how they both think,” Gates stated with a smile.
“And then adjusting for their mistakes,” Scoobo explained.
“Mistakes?” Black suddenly asked.
“How dare you!” Don stated in shock.
They went on to explain that it was more fun to “help” them without their knowing it. Black was insulted – figuring out that they thought they were so much better then they were. He wanted to know if they thought they could beat them. “At the same time,” Gates answered.
“In different games!” Scoobo added.
I thought it was kind of funny. I had expected as much after all.
Suddenly, Gates and Black ordered Scoobo and Gates to drop their gun belts. They held the swords against them, backing them up toward the house. They dropped their belts “What are you gonna do?” Scoobo asked.
"I am going to watch a chess game between both of you gentlemen. The winner gets fired, the loser gets dead," the Colonel answered
"Well you can't kill a man over a chess game," Scoobo stated fearfully.
"What do you think I came here to do?" Black reminded them. Don was happy to go right along with the plan.
So we went inside and sat down to watch the chess game between Gates and Scoobo. Gates won. Black pulled his gun out and sat it on Scoobo’s shoulder. Don smiled and the Colonel removed his gun.
They were both amazed at watching the game. They couldn’t believe how good these two men were! “Scoobo, how long would it take you to teach him that?” I asked. His answer was six months. Everyone but the Colonel found that funny.
But then I asked Gates how long it would take him to teach Don. “Oh, maybe a little longer,” he answered.
“What?” Don asked. Gates explained that he played chess like it was checkers or hopscotch.
Colonel Black and Don La Gar agreed in six months from this date they would challenge each other to a game of chess.
Mark and I stood side by side on the porch and saw them off. Mark did an excellent bow, and was mighty proud of himself for it. He sure had been impressed by Don! We waved goodbye as they rode off down the road.
"Golly Pa, I'd sure like to do that,” Mark stated with a grin on his face. I could see the dreaming in his eyes – something my boy did quite often!
"Play chess?" I teased him.
"No! Pick my own favorite time to live in. Like them."
"Oh.....when would you pick?"
"A hundred years from now.”
I knew this was going to be good! “Why then?”
He looked at me like the answer should be obvious. “Well just think!” He folded his arms and started imagining. “No wood to cut, they'd grow it in the right size. And chickens lay eggs and bring them right into the house. Then you just save your ice so you have it in the summer time and cows give milk in mason jars and leave it right in the ice house.” I laughed silently as I listened to my boy! “Oh, and Pa, you don't wash the dishes, just eat them for dessert. And no school.” Aha! Now we were getting to the heart of the matter! I nodded my head slightly as I let him go on. “Instead you can learn everything in the whole world just by readin' a little book with sixteen pages in it."
Now, THAT’s where I stopped him! I came towards him and bent down to his level. "Now, wait a minute, just where do you learn to read?”
That question stopped him dead in his tracks! He knew that idea wasn’t going to work! "Oh, well…there might be a year or two of school," said Mark.
I nodded. If he kept at it long enough, he’d figure a way out. But I had an idea of my own to express to him. And my idea was a good one – if he knew what was good for him! "Mm Hm…Well, while you’re figurin' a way around school, see if you can also figure your way around that wood pile." He nodded his head and stepped off the porch to follow my orders. Then he turned and looked at me. We both looked off into the sunset where my two friends had just disappeared. We both laughed as he headed towards the woodpile. I knew my boy would be having many, many sweet dreams tonight!
piddlin' stuff.....Sean McClory appeared in two episodes ― Knight Errant as Colonel Black, an old friend of Lucas', the union officer ― I Take This Woman as Dennis O'Flarrety, the Irish man came to claim what he was promised, Lou Mallory.
Lawrence Dobkin appeared in four episodes ― The Gaucho as Juan Argentez, the Gaucho's father ― The Sheridan Story as General Phil Sheridan ― Knight Errant as Don Chimera del Laredo, he was the guy with the sword ― The Day a Town Slept as Ben Judson, the man who beat Micah in the election for Marshal of North Fork.
Jack Elam appeared in five episodes — Duel of Honor as the arrogant Sim Groder who constantly picked on the Count — Tension as Gavin Martin, he was the cowboy who got killed with the pitch fork ― Shotgun Man as Gus Smith, he's the dude that John Beaumont killed in the saloon — Knight Errant as Gates, he was Don Chimera Del Laredo's Esquire, the one who declared there was a rattlesnake in the woodpile — Shattered Idol as Russell the pool shark.
Charles Reade as Scoobo, Colonel Black's companion.
Bloopers - Knight Errant
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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